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Sharon’s Nut-Free Jai Recipe for Lunar New Year

Sharon’s Nut-Free Jai Recipe for Lunar New Year

Flavors of Culture-Sharon Wong

Zestfull’s series “Flavors of Culture” explores the powerful connection between food and culture with food allergies.  To kick off our series, Sharon Wong shares her favorite traditional nut-free Jai recipe for Lunar New Year.

Sharon shares her recipe for Nut-free Chinese New Year Jai

Who is Sharon? 

Sharon is a San Francisco Bay Area food allergy mom who blogs at Nut Free Wok where she creates nut-free Asian recipes. She is also a cookbook author of the new Chinese Instant Pot Cookbook which celebrates sixty quick and easy classic, allergy-friendly recipes that you can make at home.

Sharon’s two sons live with allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Her one son is mostly desensitized to peanuts, tree nuts and egg but has some fruit allergies. Sharon has a latex allergy. 

Sharon’s Jai recipe and food traditions

What do food traditions mean to you?

Chinese people gather to celebrate holidays such as Lunar New Year and the Autumn Moon. Specific foods have symbolic intentions which are served at these celebrations.

I don’t necessarily believe that if I eat a specific dish that xyz would happen as a result, but I respect the beliefs and culture enough to make certain foods and tell the stories behind them without any expectations.

How has your extended family adapted their food traditions to accommodate your food allergies?

We avoided 30+ allergens during the kids’ early years so we hosted most gatherings and holidays for family and friends. I did the majority of cooking but some people would bring drinks, or a fruit salad that they would cut up at my house so that they could safely contribute to our meals.  

I always asked our children for their input on what they would like to bring to an event. Based on their responses, I would make a favorite entree and dessert so that they didn’t feel deprived if there was something they couldn’t eat which contained their allergen or traces of it.

How have you created new food traditions for your family?

Celebrating Lunar New Year with food has probably been the most difficult for me because of recipes that are passed down and best learned when cooking side by side together. 

My favorite way to gain knowledge about Chinese food is to talk to my mom or relatives. That said,  if I ask my mom or auntie, they will tell me to use a little bit of this or that without any specific amounts or guidance on the recipe. 

So, I experiment in the kitchen, adapting recipes and testing them out on my family.  I try to share one traditional Lunar New Year recipe per year on my blog which has become my new food tradition.

What is your best advice for someone navigating family gatherings with food allergies?

  • Share your needs in simple terms and clarify. 
  • Let go of expectations.
  • Embrace situations when people respond with empathy.
  • Release hurt feelings when people respond in ignorance and do what’s best to keep your family safe.

Sharon’s Nut-free Chinese Jai Recipe

Although there are several auspicious dishes such as potstickers, lettuce cups and steamed fish that are eaten for Lunar New Year, these are also consumed year round. However, this Chinese Jai recipe is a must-have traditional New Year dish.

Sharon says that she felt stuck on tradition. If she left out her family’s allergens, would it still be a traditional Lunar New Year recipe? But then she thought about how difficult it must be for some people who don’t live near an Asian market and do not have access to these ingredients.

The intention is to make a vegetarian stew so as long as there are some traditional ingredients that are considered auspicious then I give myself permission to make Jai the food allergy mom way.

See Also
creamy bean dip

The beauty of Sharon’s Jai recipe is that you can adapt it based on your dietary requirements and still taste the flavors of Sharon’s Chinese culture. Kortney made this version top 14 allergen-free. See notes below.
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Flavors of Culture-Sharon Wong

Sharon’s Nut-Free Jai

  • Author: Sharon Wong
  • Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian


Traditionally, Jai is made with peanuts, chestnuts and ginko nuts, topped with a garnish of toasted sesame seeds. Sharon’s version is free from: tree nuts, peanuts, sesame, fish and egg. 


Reprinted with Sharon’s permission from her blog, Nut Free Wok. Find more tips on making Jai here.


  • 1 cup bean curd sticks dried (1 handful, 2 oz)
  • ½ cup lily flower buds dried (0.5 ounce)
  • ¼ cup lotus seeds dried (1.3 o5)
  • 12 oysters dried (2 oz)
  • 12 shitake mushrooms dried (2 ounces)
  • 1 can baby corn 14 oz, rinse
  • ½ cup red dates dried (2 ounces)
  • 2 large carrots 3 small, diagonally sliced
  • 6 oz deep fried tofu puffs
  • 12 deep fried gluten balls 50 grams
  • 12 ounces Napa cabbage 1 small or 1/2 medium head, sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 bundles mung bean vermicelli dried
  • 8 oz sugar snap peas or snow peas
  • 3/4 cup black moss 1 ounce
  • 1/2 cup rice wine for rinsing
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or other stir fry oil
  • 1 inch ginger peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups mushroom soaking water or broth or plain water
  • 4 cups broth vegetable or chicken
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce


Wash, soak & preparation:

Parboiling & cooking:


  1. Kortney (Zestfull Co-Founder) also made Sharon’s recipe to tap into her Chinese heritage. She had a hard time sourcing some of the ingredients (either not available or not safe for her allergies) but felt the dish complete with the alternatives she used. 
  2. If you cannot find dried shitake, use another form of dried mushroom. The mushroom soaking water adds a flavour that is hard to replicate. 
  3. Sharon’s recipe contains shellfish and soy; two of Kortney’s allergens. To make Jai top 14 free, Kortney used the following alternatives:
  • Bamboo shoots instead of the bean curd sticks
  • Button mushrooms instead of tofu and oysters
  • Dried prunes instead of dates
  • Rice vermicelli instead of mung bean noodles
  • Bok choy as she could not find napa cabbage and is allergic to snap peas (added a nice green touch)
  • Coconut aminos to add flavour at the end instead of soy sauce and oyster sauce
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Main
  • Cuisine: Chinese

Check out Sharon’s New Book!

Chinese Instant Pot Cookbook- Sharon Wong

More Flavors of Culture recipes

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